The Running Of The Indies

Danny Vinik examines the ideology of Larry Pressler, a former Republican campaigning as an independent in the South Dakota Senate race:

At first blush, it may seem like Pressler is living up to his independent candidacy. And technically that is true: On some issues, he supports the GOP. On others, he’s closer to the Democrats. But this is only the case because the Republican Party has swung so far to the right. With the exception of supporting same-sex marriage and a pathway to citizenship, Pressler’s Democratic positionsslightly more revenue in return for significant spending cuts, a moderate increase in the minimum wage, and reforming Obamacarearen’t very Democratic. In fact, Pressler’s platform is mostly a mix of centrist and Republican positions. In years past, that would make him a Republican, not an Independent.

Francis Barry entertains the prospect of a Senate with three or four independents:

King, Orman and Pressler have all said they are open to caucusing with either party. If neither party wins outright control of the Senate, King – along with Orman and Pressler, if they win – would become the Capitol equivalents of LeBron James: highly prized free agents. (Sanders, by contrast, would sooner denounce maple syrup than join forces with Republicans.)

The independents would have enormous leverage to extract financial benefits for their states and political benefits for themselves. While King and Orman might prefer aligning with the Democrats, and Pressler would lean toward the Republicans, all would be able to play the parties against each other. Constantly.

Perhaps, but the independent candidates will have to win first. Enten takes a closer look at the Kansas race, which may be moving back towards the GOP:

In Kansas, Republican Sen. Pat Roberts faces a strong challenge from [Independent Greg] Orman. Orman, though, may have peaked too soon. Roberts recorded his first lead in two polls released last week, and a newPublic Policy Polling (PPP) survey puts Orman only up 3 percentage points. That’s down from a 10 percentage-point lead in PPP’s two prior polls. FiveThirtyEight still gives Orman a 58 percent chance of winning, but the race appears to be trending back toward the fundamentals (i.e. Kansas is a red state), and the GOP has a large advertisement advantage heading into the final few weeks of the campaign.

Tom Jensen of PPP identifies a major reason Republicans might still pull off a win in Kansas:

There’s still one big data point in Kansas pointing to the possibility of Roberts ultimately coming back to win this race. By a 52/35 margin, voters in the state would rather Republicans had control of the Senate than Democrats. And among those who are undecided there’s a 48/25 preference for a GOP controlled Senate. If voters make up their minds based on the national picture in the closing stretch it could mean voting for Roberts even if they don’t really care for him personally.